Iraq war veteran Akshay Nanavati joined the Marines after overcoming drug addiction in high school; his role in Iraq was to walk in front of convoys to find IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. On his discharge, Nanavati was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and considered suicide before turning to extreme sport as an answer. Since then, he has run ultramarathons, skied across the world’s second-largest ice cap, and climbed in the Himalayas.
Together, those experiences form the basis of his current career as a coach and motivational speaker, as well as the backbone of his new book, Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness.
Nanavati spends much of his year travelling, whether between his two home bases—the US and India — or on extreme expeditions in Greenland, Alaska, or Bolivia
Approach air travel like a workout
When you travel with the Marines, you don’t get the luxury of time off to relax and recover, whether this is going to San Diego for Marine Corps boot camp or flying to Kuwait in preparation for the war. You’ve got to hit the ground running. So I took lessons from that: If I’m flying to a destination at night, to combat the jet lag and ensure I get back into the rhythm, I force myself to stay awake on a long flight. I use pre-workout supplements with caffeine in them like Gnarly Maximus.
The other thing I’ve started doing to keep me going and keep my energy and my blood flowing is to find a corner of the plane somewhere and knock out push-ups every so often. I’ve gamified it, so depending on the mileage of the journey, I’ll tell myself: one pushup for every 10 or 100 miles of the journey. You’ll get funny stares from people eyeing you in that back corner, but I think usually it’s often a smile of admiration.
Carry a good MacGyver tool
Having a multitool always comes in handy to fix any little things that might break on my adventures. It’s got a little knife on it and a pair of pliers. Pliers are useful for everything — when my [suitcase] zip came loose, I used the pliers to zip it shut again. If nothing else, it also just serves as a useful bottle opener.
Bring an extra water bottle on cold camping trips
In cold environments, like when I was mountaineering in Alaska, it really helps to have a pee bottle. The first time I heard this, it kind of grossed me out. But then the first time I had to get out [of my tent] in a cold mountain environment to go pee radically changed that thought. The best way is to take a yellow Nalgene bottle and mark big Xs all over it because you do not want to confuse it with your regular water bottle. You learn how to pee in a pee bottle very effectively. And it also becomes like a hot water bottle you can keep with you in your sleeping bag, which was helpful in Greenland, where it’s minus-30 degrees.
Pack a runner’s kit
As soon as I landed in Kerala [recently], I went on a 10-mile run in the pouring rain, and it was beautiful. I absolutely loved it. I have a Ziploc bag in my running kit, where I put my iPod and these little 100-calorie packets, Gu Gel, that runners use for ultra-endurance sports. There’s a very specific formula I follow: You want to take anywhere from 250 to 300 calories an hour, so I take two per hour.